Home / Politics / Policy /  Budget 2017: Arun Jaitley unveils series of post-demonetisation digital reforms

Mumbai: Finance minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday set out the vision of a Digital India as he unveiled a series of post-demonetisation digital reforms—including a Rs3 lakh cap on cash transactions—that he said were aimed at fetching the government Rs2,500 crore in revenue.

“India is at the cusp of a massive digital transformation," said Jaitley as he listed ‘Digital’ as one of the 10 key themes in the Union Budget 2017.

Digital transformation, he said, was a crucial pillar of efforts to Transform, Energise and Clean (TEC) India.

Claiming that demonetisation will have long-term benefits—one of them being greater digitisation that could lead to higher and cleaner GDP growth—Jaitley announced a host of reforms to promote a digital payments ecosystem.

Also Read | Budget 2017: Jaitley raises allocation for electronics makers to Rs745 crore

These include a proposal to set up a payment regulatory board, encouraging digital payments at petrol pumps and hospitals, withdrawing service charges on railway e-tickets booked via Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), launch of two new schemes to promote the Bharat Interface for Money (BHIM) cashless app and a soon-to-be-unveiled biometric Aadhaar payment system.

All these steps, said Jaitley, are aimed at garnering Rs2,500 crore through digital transactions across platforms including the united payment interface (UPI).

Simultaneously, in a bid to promote cashless transactions, Jaitley announced a host of measures including exempting miniature point of sale (POS) and micro-POS machines from countervailing duty (CVD ) and special additional duty (SAD). Besides, no transaction over lakh will be permitted in cash, Jaitley said even as he move to cut the presumptive turnover threshold for companies with a turnover up to 2 crore to 6%.

Also Read | Budget 2017: Cash transactions above Rs3 lakh banned from 1 April

He did not spare politicians either, announcing that the maximum cash donation receivable by a political party from any one source was capped at Rs2,000— down from Rs20,000 earlier.

To be sure, the launch of the mobile app Bhim has already seen over 11 million downloads by mid-January. As many as 14 banks have already come on board for Aadhaar Pay, which will enable people to make and receive payments using their Aadhaar number and biometrics. Besides, Digidhan Abhiyaan and 200,000 Common Service Centres are providing employment to over 500,000 youth, and spreading digital literacy, as President Pranab Mukherjee noted in his speech on Tuesday.

To take the banking system to the doorstep of the poor and the unbanked, the government has already launched the Indian Postal Payment Bank. The postal network has over 150,000 post offices. Besides, the over 100,000 ‘bank mitras’ appointed by banks, over 250,00 ‘Gram Dak Sewaks’ will also function as banking correspondents.

In a bid to bridge the digital divide through online education, Jaitley on Wednesday also announced that the government’s Swayam platform, which has been developed by the ministry of human resource development and All India Council for Technical Education with the help of Microsoft Corp., will start offering 350 online courses.

Swayam “would be ultimately capable of hosting 2,000 courses and 80,000 hours of learning, covering school, under-graduate, post-graduate, engineering, law and other professional courses", according to its website.

Jaitley said the government has received over 250 proposals for electronics manufacturing in the last two years, entailing investment of Rs1.26 trillion. This will help the electronics ecosystem as the country will need thousands of sensors and chips to build Digital India.

The FM said the financial allocation for Bharat Net, conceived as the world’s largest rural broadband connectivity project, was being increased to Rs10,000 crore. Under Bharat Net, the government has laid 155,000 km of optic fibre cable till date, Jaitley said, adding that high-speed fibre optic broadband will be available in over 150,000 gram panchayats (village councils) with hotspots and access to digital services at low tariffs.

A ‘Digi Gaon’ initiative, said Jaitely, will also be launched to provide telemedicine, education and skills through digital technology. Jaitley believes that these moves will “give a major fillip to mobilising broadband and Digital India, for the benefit of people living in rural areas".

To be sure, technology has been the government’s fulcrum for growth in the last two years.

Jaitley’s budget speech also underscored how technology will be used across sectors—be it to increase tax compliance and accountability with the help of data analytics, increase digital literacy, strengthen rural markets, improve agriculture, modernise ports and airports or to store digital documents.

This year’s budget was a continuation of the government’s earlier budget policy announcements. In the 2016 budget, Jaitley had announced two schemes to improve digital literacy—-the national digital literacy mission and digital saksharta abhiyan-—both aimed at enabling more Indians to get connected to, and benefit from, the Internet while simultaneously helping rural employment generation and skill development in colleges and Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs).

Similarly, the government had announced plans to cover about 60 million houses in rural areas in the next three years and provide digital devices like computers, tablet PCs and smartphones. According to Jaitley’s 2016 budget speech, of the 168 million rural households, as many as 120 million households did not have computers and are unlikely to have digitally literate persons.

Jaitley had then proposed a Digital Depository for school leaving certificates, as a part of its Digital India initiative, to be a one-stop house for storing all education-related certificates of schools and colleges.

Given that most people, especially in rural areas do not have proper storage facilities for important documents, the tablet PCs along with an Internet connection and cloud storage can help in keeping these documents secure.

In July, 2015, the government had introduced the Digital Locker facility and linked it with the Aadhaar card, permitting users to store scanned copied of their documents such as passports, PAN cards and driving licences. The site is secured and allows users to access their documents using the cloud.

Catch all the Politics News and Updates on Live Mint. Download The Mint News App to get Daily Market Updates & Live Business News.
More Less
Subscribe to Mint Newsletters
* Enter a valid email
* Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter.

Recommended For You

Edit Profile
Get alerts on WhatsApp
Set Preferences My ReadsWatchlistFeedbackRedeem a Gift CardLogout